Scrivener and Zotero - Advice for a Newby

Dear Zotero

Scrivener has been recommended to me recently by a few academics. But it's new to me. Zotero I've been using for a few years and it's as staple to me as oxygen..

I am tempted to buy Scrivener - the functionality seems very good. But - only if there are plans for compatibility with Zotero. I have read all the forums here and it doesn't seem straightforward currently. I've also watched the YouTube videos about scrivener and Zotero. I honestly can't see myself using the workarounds. Too fiddly.

Also I'd be working for my first project with existing word documents, moved to Scrivener - with Zotero citations. And I don't see any advice on this.

Can anyone out there tell me if it's a huge faff or if one does eventually get used to the workarounds. Or even better - that there is a plug-in in the works..


  • There's no plugin in the works. I think we might get a bit more stable/easy support for the scanning solutions that are what you find now if you search for Zotero/Scrivener integration, but a proper plugin is unlikely to happen.
  • Thanks Adam. Saves me money on going to Scrivener.

  • There isn't much that can be done for Scrivener -- Literature & Latte (the makers of Scrivener) have not shown any interest in making available the possibility in Scrivener for tighter integration with other programs. Since L&L won't do it, and Scrivener is closed source (meaning we can't do it either), there's nothing that can be done on our end.
  • I also have the same concerns as the original poster before committing to Scrivener. In the Scirvener User Manual for MacOS, it states the following:

    "20.4 Bibliography Management
    Scrivener offers simple integration with your favourite bibliography or citation
    manager (such as EndNote, Bookends, Sente or Zotero) for academic work. To
    set it up:
    1. Open the General: Citations preference pane (subsection B.2.8).
    2. Click on the Choose… button and use the file chooser to locate the application
    you use for citation management.
    Once the citation manager has been set up, you can use the Insert
    ▸ Bibliography/Citations… menu command (⌘Y) at any time, to bring
    your chosen software to the front, launching it automatically if necessary."

    This sounds promising, but then it continues,

    "The steps you take next will depend upon your citation manager, so you will
    need to consult their documentation on how to use their software with third-party
    word processors. Typically, you would copy and paste a citation placeholder
    into Scrivener, in the location where the reference mark should appear.
    After compiling to rtf, you would then use the citation manager to scan these
    placeholders into final print form. Not every program or service provides rtf
    scanning, however. You should research the software you intend to use and
    make certain it designed to work with software other than Microsoft Word."

    What does this mean? Why do they state Scrivener integrates with Zotero? Thanks!
  • They don't integrate. All that it does is launch a program, which usually (but not even necessarily) brings it to the foreground. It's literally no different from clicking the Zotero icon in the taskbar. When they say "simple" they don't mean "simple to use", they mean "simple to do for L&L".

    For MacOS, there's, which makes it a tad less painful, but Scrivener really doesn't have any good options for integration. It's not something that can be fixed at the Zotero end.
  • Ok....thanks!
  • To elaborate -- the best case integration scenario for Scrivener is what they describe here:
    Typically, you would copy and paste a citation placeholder into Scrivener, in the location where the reference mark should appear. After compiling to rtf, you would then use the citation manager to scan these placeholders into final print form.
    Zotero has two solutions for this. The native, built-in RTF scan, which is easy to use but not the most reliable solution, and the ODF scan solution, which is a bit more involved but more precise/reliable. Zotero could improve on this -- and I think likely will -- in the future, but it'd always remain a solution where you insert some sort of placeholder into Scrivener and then scan the file to convert.
  • edited December 10, 2018
    First of all, I always thank for Zetoro development team.

    ODF scan solution doesn't work fine for non-English authors and titles.
    For Korean users like me, placeholder way or something not involved with languages will be a better solution, I think.
  • In what way does ODF-scan not work for non-English?

    The zotpick solution is a complement to what @adamsmith describes -- I forgot to mention that. Zotpick offers an easy way to get the markers into your document, but you'd still have to use either pandoc or ODF scan to get the final document.
  • @compunk Yes, ODF Scan certainly works for non-English writing. What exactly is happening when you try?
  • Oh. I'm sorry.
    Scan function doesn't work in default RTF-scan.
    However, odf-scan-plugin works normally for Korean documents.
  • Thanks for all of the feedback and discussion. I guess because I have never used Scrivener before, and because I am not the most technically literate, I do not really understand what the processes of 'compiling to RTF' involves and then 'scanning' with some features within Zotero.

    Short of an explanation of all of that, I am just wondering if it is ultimately simple enough to do, or in other words, do the benefits of Scrivener justify needing to endure this process in people's opinions? Thanks!
  • edited December 10, 2018
    See this cite for details on how to use the Zotero ODF Scan plugin

    Basically, install the ODF Scan Plugin. Then, insert placeholder citations into Scrivener from Zotero (e.g., by setting your default export format to Scannable Cite and dragging from Zotero or using the zotpick tool Emiliano mentions). When you are done writing, Export from Scrivener as “ODT”. Then, in Zotero, click Tools -> RTF Scan -> ODF Scan and select your document to have Zotero convert the placeholders to live Zotero citations. Open the document in LibreOffice to finish formatting.

    It’s not a very complicated process overall, so if you find Scrivener’s features useful, working with Zotero isn’t that difficult.
  • I was unable to install this plugin (despite having quite a bit of computer programming experience). However, I was able to use Zotero with Scrivener, on the Windows platform, using Zotero's built-in RTF scan feature (

    The steps are:
    (1) In Scrivener, insert a citation in the body of a text document, using the one of the supplied formats, e.g. {Anderson, 2016} . Note that you should insert the citation in the body of the document, and not in a Scrivener-style footnote.
    (2) In Scrivener, insert {Bibliography} in the body of a text document, in the spot where you would like the Bibliography to appear (assuming you want the references at the end)
    (3) In Scrivener, compile the document, using RTF as the output format
    (4) In Zotero, go to Tools > RTF Scan. Zotero will prompt you to select input and output files. Select the RTF file that you created in the previous step. You can also select an output file, or you can accept the default file created by Zotero. Click Next.
    (5) Zotero will display a table and ask you to confirm any ambiguous references. (I'm not sure why it always does this; at least for me, the references should not be ambiguous.) Ensure that every Citation listed in the table has a corresponding Item Name. i.e. if the "Item Name" field is blank, you must select a Citation. Once you have done this, click Next.
    (6) Zotero will prompt you to select a citation style, e.g. MLA or APA. Select a style and click Next.
    (7) Zotero will confirm that your document has been scanned. Open the document and confirm that the formatting is correct.

    That's it!
  • What do you mean you weren’t able to install the plugin ?
  • Installation issue is as reported & answered here. The add-on is fine: (having programming experience does unfortunately not get you around reading the documentation :P)
  • Thank you b00kgrr !
    This is exactly what I was looking for, being a real newbie in both Scrivener and Zotero.
  • Are there any changes in the scrivener situation?
  • Scrivener still doesn’t provide any sort of API for third-party tools to directly integrate with it, so the best method is still to use Scannable Cites and the ODF Scan plugin
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